College of Law to launch doctorate in space law

College of Law to launch doctorate in space law

Exterior of the Schmid Law Library at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Courtesy
Exterior of the Schmid Law Library at the University of Nebraska College of Law.

The College of Law will open a new frontier in space law by launching a doctorate of juridicial sciences degree program later this month.

For the past five years, UNL has been the only law college in the nation to offer an LL.M., or Master of Laws, degree in space, cyber and telecommunications law. Graduates of the one-year program have gone on to careers working for private companies like SpaceX; for civilian agencies like the State Department and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab; for military operations such as the U.S. Cyber Command and Space Operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base; as well as for think tanks, consultants and law firms.

Going forward, UNL will be the only U.S. law school to offer both a master's and doctorate in space law. The doctorate program has been offered online since the 2012-13 academic year.

The juridicial sciences degree program will break new ground as the only doctoral-level space law program in the United States, said Matthew Schaefer, professor of law and director of the college's Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program.

"This additional degree offering, much like the launch of the online LL.M., is going to widen opportunities for experienced lawyers and legal scholars to delve into very intricate and complex issues facing the regulation of outer space activities in an in-depth manner," Schaefer said.

Research-focused and dissertation-based, the juridicial sciences degree program in essence will require students to write a book about an aspect of space law, such as regulation of satellite communications or liability issues relating to commerce in space. Students will play a pioneering role in developing the field of space law.

Schaefer said he expects one or two students to join the new program each year. It likely will take two to three years to complete the degree. Professor Frans von der Dunk will supervise the juridicial sciences degree students with support from Schaefer and assistant professor Jack Beard.

The juridicial sciences degree program was unanimously approved Aug. 1 by Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. It is one of two new law programs planned — the other, a Master of Laws program to train foreign lawyers on the U.S. legal system, is to launch in fall 2014.